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'This is really happening': last minute graduation plans take place as reality sets in

April 21, 2021
<p>An MSU student wearing their graduation cap and gown on April 22, 2020.</p>

An MSU student wearing their graduation cap and gown on April 22, 2020.

Photo by Alyte Katilius | The State News

After a senior year that didn’t go as planned, the class of 2021 has the opportunity for a small taste of normalcy. 

In March, it was confirmed that all graduating seniors would have the opportunity to walk in a smaller ceremony organized by colleges and majors. While this is great news for many, the unexpected in-person event has left many scrambling. 

“Beginning of March I think is when the first rumor came about that they’re trying to be in the works of planning something so that we can walk,” hospitality business senior Taylor Benoit said. “End of March is when it was confirmed, and we got the RSVP, and it was like, ‘Wow this is really happening.” 

With last summer’s last-minute cancellation of in-person classes, some students thought it may be too good to be true, leading to some preparations to be put off until the last minute.

“Honestly it was really hard to find just a cute simple white dress,” supply chain senior Andrea Vortriede said. “I do think maybe stuff has been selling out because it’s just right now that everyone’s like, ‘Oh shoot this is really happening, they're not gonna cancel it.’”

As classes are online, Vortriede has found it harder to collaborate with her classmates to gather details about the ceremony.

“It’s weird because you don’t get to talk to people like you would in your college classes,” Vortriede said. “For example, I didn't even know if I was supposed to wear a shawl. I had to text several people who also didn’t know, and we were trying to figure out who would know.”

In the end, Vortriede and friends took to the internet to find pictures from previous ceremonies. 

“We just had to go look at photos, but that’s something you would’ve figured out if you were in a class full of people, immediately people would’ve known," Vortriede said.

Supply chain management senior Ryan Schiffman experienced his own graduation preparation struggles — the other way around. Schiffman, a summer graduate, was told along with other summer graduates that he could walk in the spring. In early March, during graduation planning, Schiffman got the news he would not be able to walk when he had anticipated. 

“I’m still a summer grad, but I’m not allowed to walk until the fall, but I'm not doing that," Schiffman said. "I’m going to be in law school in Virginia. We all have jobs and move on.”

Schiffman was prepared to graduate and start the next chapter of his life. 

“I planned on family coming ... from Maryland," Schiffman said. "I had bought a class ring. I was going to buy one anyway, but I bought it earlier in order to get it in time."

For Schiffman, graduation ceremonies are common in his family. However, he recognizes how heartbreaking this could be for many other students. 

“It’s worse for other people,” Schiffman said. “I was pretty upset — if I was a first-gen student, I would be destroyed.”

Benoit is happy to be walking at all, even though her graduation plans were tweaked. 

“It definitely was kind of sprung on us, but I personally wanted to walk, so I was very excited for that,” Benoit said. “I’m just excited that we were at least given the opportunity, even though it’s not the usual. ... We're still being acknowledged in even a small way.”

However, Benoit said without some of the traditional pre-graduation events happening, it has been difficult for reality to set in.

“I still do plan on taking pictures around campus, which might not be the same feel as a normal year of walking around and seeing so many people out and about, and then getting excited in that way, where it also doesn’t quite feel like it’s setting in yet,” Benoit said. 

Since Benoit’s entire family is not allowed at the ceremony, she plans on celebrating with them once she gets home.

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“I do also plan on after graduation, going back home and celebrating with all my family, like my siblings and their significant others,” Benoit said. “Just immediate family after the ceremony, but it will still be nice to at least feel like something is a little bit normal, even though everything else is still in shambles.”


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